Copyright © The Malta Historical Society, 2005.

Source: Melita Historica : Journal of the Malta Historical Society. 2(1956)1(61-64)

[p.61] In Memoriam


The death of Dr. Attilio Critien, which occurred on the 21st December, 1955 marked the passing away of a fine gentleman who made a solid contribution to the study of Maltese History. The following is a review and an appreciation of his publications which he managed to fit in with his many other official and philanthropic duties over a lifetime of useful activities in the medico-social field. His, work is chiefly made up of papers and of longer studies which, if collected in book form, will make a handsome volume.

Dr. Critien, who was born in 1872, was educated at the Lyceum and at Flores College. He studied medicine at the Malta University and at the School of Imperial Science at Liverpool University. After graduating an M.A. and M.D. in 1898 he served as Dissector of the Anatomy School at the Malta University and later as Civil Surgeon in Crete. He was also Receiving Medical Officer at Netherfield Road Hospital, Liverpool, while following postgraduate studies at the University of Liverpool, where he received the Diploma in Public Health and the Diploma in Tropical Medicine in 1904. From 1917 to 1935 he was Chief Government Medical Officer, and for many years up to his death he was Chairman of the Malta War Memorial Hospital for Children.

Dr. Critien first made his mark in the medical field in the early years of this century. His work as Medical Officer of Health and later as Chief Government Medical Officer afforded him an opportunity of contributing various articles to well-known medical journals abroad. Especially worth mentioning in the medical field are the following: Some Observations on Blood Serum Reaction in Tubercle and Mediterranean Fever in Malta (in "Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene", London, 1909); Infant Mortality in the Maltese Islands (in "Public Health", London, June, 1909); Infantile Leishmaniasis in Malta (in "Annals of Tropical Medicine and Parasitology", Vol. V. No. 1, April 1911); Kala-Azar Infantile à Malte : Note Preliminaire (In "Archives de l'Institute Pasteur de Tunis", Fasc. II, 1910).

The last-mentioned two publications are original contributions to the study of Medicine and reflect great credit on Dr. Critien's research work in the field of parasitology. It is a work of which he was justly proud, the result of his investigations being the identification of the disease known in Malta as Il-Marda tal-Biċċa with Infantile Leishmaniasis. This made it possible to start specific treatment which turned a fatal disease into an easily curable one. Dr. C. M. Wemjon, in a paper read at a meeting of the Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, in London, on the 19th December, 1913 wrote as follows : "Kala-Azar was first shown to exist in Malta in the year 1910 by Dr. Critien, who in a valuable report pointed out that the disease in children had long been known in the Island under the name of il-marda tal-biċċa. It was Dr. Critien also who discovered that the dogs in this Island were liable to Leishmaniasis which is most probably caused by the same organism as that producing the infantile disease" (See "Transactions of the Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene", 1914, January, Vol. VII, No. 3, pp. 97-111).

The Manderaggio was the first monograph written by Dr. Critien to give a realistic picture of the insanitary condition of that area. The pamphlet was the outcome of notes and snap-shots taken during his survey of the Manderaggio in 1913, when he was still Medical Officer of Health. The author forecast the demolition of this insanitary area in his Preface; and his pamphlet, with its accompanying photographic reproductions, will serve as a document of an interesting spot, of which there remains now no trace "whatsoever except the site, where, above the buried old buildings, stands a superb newly-built block of modern buildings for working class people.

In 1940 Dr. Critien published some historical notes on St. Mary Magdalen's Convent in Archivum Melitense (Vol X. No. 5). The Convent, by an Order of Napoleon, was suppressed and the Nuns joined those of the Convent of St. Catherine, while the building became, under emergency regulations, a Hospital for Male Civilians, — the Holy Infirmary being reserved entirely for the French Army. The author gives detailed information of the hospital accommodation by exploiting every record available, including plans made by the Works Department in 1849, when the building was converted into an Asylum for Orphan Boys and Girls and an Industrial Day School.

[p.62] Dr. Critien's researches led to several specialised studies on the hospital services in Malta under the Knights. These were The Holy Infirmary Plate ("Scientia", Vol. IX, No. 3, 1943); Holy Infirmary Sketches (Lux Press, Malta, 1945); A Round of the Infirmary Wards ("Scientia", Vol. XIV, No. 3, 1948), The Foundlings under the Order and After ("Scientia'', Vol. XV, No. 1, 1949) and Borgo Holy Infirmary now the Saint Scholastica Convent (Empire Press, Malta, 1950).

Dr. Critien's latest historical publication On Short Commons — Sidelights of the Maltese Insurrection against the French is by far the most important. It appeared in a series of four articles in Scientia (Vol. XVI, Nos. 1-4, 1950). The script was salvaged from the debris of his blitzed home. This account recalls the privations endured by our forefathers during the French Blockade as compared with the Island's siege conditions during the Axis's attempts to starve the Maltese into submission in 1941-43. It is a vivid and detailed picture of the distress and sufferings of the Maltese people and garrison during the Blockade and their repercussions on the health of the besieged. The author deals also with the food situation in the country, where people were no less in dire need of foodstuffs repeatedly requested from the King of Naples. Several moneyed Maltese amongst the insurgents had credit in Spain for cotton exports and others pledged their property to cover payments for wheat consignments. Captured enemy ships provided now and then a temporary relief, but famine was only averted with difficulty.

There is also an account of the hospitals on the Island during the Blockade — a subject hardly touched upon before. The author records, besides Santo Spirito Hospital and the Saura Home, other premises used as emergency hospitals, among which St. Dominic's Convent at Rabat (referred to as the Grande Ospedale), the Churches of St. Sebastian and St. Agatha and the Church of St. Francis at Rabat, as, well as the Bishop's Seminary at Notabile. At Zejtun a house belonging to Count Agostino de Fremaux, St. Gregory's Church and Bishop Labini's country house at Xolxja — between Zabbar and Zejtun — were also used for this purpose, while at Zebbug a house in the Piazzetta at the back of the Parish Church is still known as the Ospedale di San Giuseppe.

Reading through the considerable material published by Dr. Critien one is impressed by his painstaking research and assiduity which enabled him to fill many a gap in our knowledge of the hospital services under the Knights of St. John.


CANON J. M. FARRUGIA (1868-1953)

Canon J. M. Farrugia was a familiar figure to students of Maltese History. His name was synonymous with Vittoriosa (Il-Birgu), his birthplace. All his life he worked and wrote to enhance the prestige of his native Birgu and to imbue the younger generation with a sense of pride in the heritage handed to them from the past.

During his long and active life, he made his mark as priest, as historian and as a writer of sketches and of verse in Maltese. A staunch believer in the Anglo-Maltese connexion, he was no less attached to his native language and literature; and he was among the first to contribute to the literary journal Il-Malti. Having joined the Għaqda tal-Kittieba tal-Malti on the 18th December, 1921. Apart from his pleasant sketches, his best attempt in verse is his translation Il-Messija from the English of Alexander Pope (Il-Malti, Dec., 1946) and his translation from the Latin of the service on St. Lawrence's Day L-Ufficjatura u l-Quddiesa ta' San Lawrenz (Lux Press, 1945, 22 p.).

Canon Farrugia was born at Vittoriosa on February 24, 1868 and received his education at the Lyceum and the Imdina Seminary. On December 17, 1892 he was ordained Priest by Archbishop Pace, and in June 1900 he was installed, after a competitive examination which he passed cum laude, as Canon Theologian of the "Collegiate and Conventual Church of St. Lawrence, Vittoriosa. He remained deeply attached to this church all his life and, as the writer of his obituary notice puts it, "he had a major share in every work of its embellishment. Particular mention must be made of his personal sacrifice in connexion with the covering of the walls of the Church by rich red marble. The latest work at St. Lawrence's which is due, in no small measure, to Canon Farrugia, is the new organ which was inaugurated and blessed by Archbishop Gonzi on June 22, 1952: this organ was left as a legacy by the sisters Bosco of whom Canon Farrugia was confessor and procurator" (T.O.M. 12. XII. 52). He died at Hamrun on the 31st May, 1953.

Dun Ġammarì, as he was known to many of his friends, early interested himself in social problems and in 1920 he gave a series of lectures in Maltese at the Unione Cattolica San Giuseppe. These lectures were later published, viz. Ars et Labor (In "Il-Ħabib", [p.63] 1920, July 13, 20, 27; August 16, 23, 31) Il Għakda hi Kawwa, jeu il Cotra tagħleb il Kawwa (ibid., 1920, Nov. 16, 23; Dec. 14, 21; 1921, Jan. 4, 18; Febr. 8, 26; March 12); Socjalismu bla Alla u Socialismu Nisrani (ibid., 1920, Sept. 14, 21, 25; Oct. 5, 12, 19, 26; Nov. 2). Another lecture on Arkeologija Profana u Sagra appeared in_Il-Ħabib (1920, Jan. 20, 27; Febr. 10, 17, 24; March 2; May 23).

Canon Farrugia, however, is best remembered for his many articles on some aspect or other of the history of Birgu. His series on the Vittoriosa Clock-Tower merits special mention: Kampiena Xiha (In "Il-Ħabib", 27.4.20); The Bell of Victory (T.O.M., 23.5.43); Vittoriosa Clock-Tower (ibid., 29.10.44); A Controversy. Determined (ibid., 5.11.44); It-Torri u l-Arloġġ tal-Birgu ("Il-Malti" 1927, pp. 70-74); and It-Torri tal-Arloġġ tal-Birgu: Kif kien qabel it-Blitz u kif safa wara (in "Il-Berqa", 18.10.44). Other published articles on Vittoriosa include L-Eqdem Knisja ta’ Malta, i.e. the Nativity Church in Fort St. Angelo, (in Il-Ħabib, 8.6.20), How the "Flight to Egypt" reached Vittoriosa, an account of the picture of the Altar of St. Joseph in St. Lawrence Church, Vittoriosa, (in T.O.M. 26.11.44); Fort Ricasoli (in T.O.M., 20.5.45); Vittoriosa Belfry (in T.O.M. 13.1.46) referring to the belfry on the Convent of the Dominican Priory annexed to the Church of the Annunciation, Vittoriosa; and Irreparable Damage at Vittoriosa (in T.O.M. 9.3.41, 16.3.41, 23.3.41 and 30.3.41) in which he deals with the destruction of historical objects and buildings, such as the Chapter Hall, with its archives and the Mss. of Fr. Lawrence Lanzori; the Rhodes possessions, the Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament in the Church of St. Lawrence, etc. His other articles published in English include Macabre Dungeon beneath the Old Chapel of St. Angelo (T.O.M., 21.12.44); St Angelo the Unconquerable (T.O.M., 14.1.45); Early History in Malta: The Old Chapel of St. Angelo (T.O.M., 6.5.45); The Holy Face, preserved in the Church of St. Lawrence at Vittoriosa (Daily Malta Chronicle, 16.2.38); Maltese Music: history and legend. (D.M.C., 15.3.35); Two Historical Images (T.O.M. 3.11.35); More Historical Images (T.O.M., 29.12.35); The ancient Chapel of St. Lawrence (D.M.C., 29.10.34).

Dun Ġammarì contributed various historical notes to Il-Malti between 1925 and 1934; viz. Il-Kappell u s-Sejf ta' La Vallette (1925, pp. 104-6); Il-Palazz tal-Inkiżitur tal-Birgu (1926, pp. 31-34); Dawra Arkeoloġika mal-Birgu (1926, pp. 66-72); II-Knisja ta' San Lawrenz tal-Birgu (1926, pp. 139-143; 1927, pp.28-31); Dwar il-Purċissjoni ta' San Girgor (1931, pp. 11-14), and L-Abbati tal-Palazz tas-Sinjura Bettina (1934, pp. 62-64). Two of these were slightly recast and appeared in the series of six articles on the Palaces of Vittoriosa which he published in Il-Berqa in May-June, 1945 as follows : I - Il-Palazz tal-Gvernatur; II - Il-Palazz tal-Inkiżitur; III - Il-Palazz tal-Isqof; IV - Il-Palazz tas-Sinjura Bettina; V - Il-Palazz tal-Miljunariu; VI - Il-Palazz tas-Sinjura Katin. In Il-Berqa appeared also Għaliex il-Vari tal-Ġimgħa l-Kbira tal-Birgu huma mlibbsa (18.4.46).

All these articles are informative and based on long and patient work. Their presentation, however, is not scientific, for the author invariably wrote for the layman and adapted his method accordingly. Some of the items he treat's more than once, the reason being that after the destruction of historic buildings he wanted to stress their importance as part of our cultural legacy. The material is scattered in various papers and journals and contains much useful data for a comprehensive account of historic Birgu. He himself never attempted to write a history of Vittoriosa and this was partly due to lack of encouragement. Now that there is a Vittoriosa Historical Society anxious to promote interest in the history of Birgu, let us hope that the Society will take up this suggestion in earnest.



Con sommo rammarico annunziamo la morte a Roma di Ettore, Rossi, Direttore dell'Oriente Moderno (Rivista Mensile) e Professore di Lingua Turca nell'Università di Roma. E con lui, strappato all'ammirazione e all'affetto di quanti ebbero la ventura di conoscerlo dal vicino, scompare una figura simpatica di studioso della storia ed insieme della lingua maltese.

Ettore Rossi, conosciuto a Malta come uno studioso della Storia dell'Ordine di San Giovanni, venne a Malta per la prima volta nel 1924, avendo ottenuto una borsa di [p.64] studi per compiere degli studi e delle ricerche sull'Ordine in Malta. Scrisse un'opera pregevole la Storia. della Marina dell'Ordine (Milano, 1926), e pubblicò anche uno studio documentato sul Domino dei Cavalieri di Malta a Tripoli (1530-1551),nella rivista "Archivum Melitense" (Vol. VI, No,. 2 1924). Dagli archivi di Malta, Ettore Rossi trasse pure notevole materiale inedito pel suo studio Corrispondenza tra i-Gran Maestri dell'Ordine di S. Giovanni a Malta e i Bey di Tripoli dal 1714 al 1778 pubblicato nella "Rivista degli Studi Orientali" (Vol. X, 1923-25). Durante il suo soggiorno a Malta ebbe l’occasione di fare conoscenza ed aver dei rapporti con parecchi studiosi della storia locale, come anche con membri eminenti della Società degli Scrittori Maltesi, e interessarsi così di studi comparativi del maltese con altri rami delle lingue semitiche. Allo studio del Maltese egli contribuì con un articolo nell'Enciclopediad'Islam.

Durante ulteriori visite a Malta, oltre interessarsi della storia dell'Ordine, si occupò anche della decifrazione e lettura di, epigrafi arabe e di alcuni manoscritti e documenti rinvenuti nelle biblioteche ed archivi di conventi religiosi e della Regia Biblioteca Governativa, di cui trattò in diversi opuscoli. Dalla sua penna si ebbero dei pregevoli contributi storici nell'Archivio Storico di Malta, come anche delle recensioni di lavori linguistici sul Maltese. L'ultimo suo contributo storico su Malta fu la pubblicazione nella "Miscellanea G. Galbiati", Vol. III, 1951 (Milano, Biblioteca Ambrosiana) intorno a certi Documenti Turchi inediti dell'Ambrosiana sull'Assedio di Malta nel 1565, di cui è stata pubblicata una recensione nel primo numero di questa rivista. (1952). Il Rossi aveva trattato lo stesso argomento in un suo articolo L'Assedio di Malta nel 1565 secondo gli storici ottomani, pubblicato in "Malta Letteraria", maggio, 1926.

Il suo interesse per gli studi storici maltesi si mantenne sempre vivo, e in occasione della pubblicazione della nostra rivista, egli così scrisse al Sig. G. Cassar Pullicino, in data 1 ottobre, 1952: "Ho ricevuto il primo numero di Melita Historica e ringrazio sentitamente del gentile invio; formulando auguri per la felice continuazione della tradizione di studi storici maltesi legata all'Archivum Melitense e all'indimenticabile Mons. Mifsud".

Con la scomparsa del Rossi gli studiosi della storia di Malta e della sua lingua hanno perduto un loro caro amico a un appassionato collaboratore.